With the recent 20th anniversary of the terror attacks on 9/11, “Never Forget” is everywhere. It’s on signs, T shirts, social media, mugs. It has taken on the aspect of an incantation. But what does it really mean?

For anyone in this country who was at least 10 years old on September 11th 2001, there is no possibility that they would forget that day. It is seared into both our individual and our collective consciousness.  So why the constant reminders to remember something we could never possibly forget?

Most likely the reason is that “never forget” is code for “never forget that we were attacked by 19 Muslim terrorists”. We should never forget to hate. We should never forget they are “the other”. We should never forget that Americans are superior, exceptional.

After 20 years, I remain horrified and revolted that those terrorists murdered 3,000 innocent people. Nothing will ever make that remotely forgettable. But I also don’t think I should forget a number of other things resulting from 9/11.

The Patriot Act was swept in, which has deprived all Americans of a great deal of privacy. 9/11 was used to justify our invading both Iraq and Afghanistan, both conflicts taking many thousands more American lives than 9/11. Immediately after the attacks, corporate tax rates were slashed. A number of corporations profited enormously from both aforementioned wars. 9/11 was used to justify our using torture on Arab suspects. We have become such a selfish nation that more than 3,000 people have died from Covid in just the last two days.

This all reminds me of a few years ago, when “Support Our Troops” was ubiquitous. Again, who could possibly not support our troops? The young men and women, frequently without other viable options, in harm’s way, risking their lives and their physical and emotional health?  “Support Our Troops” was code for “Support Our Wars”.

Three families on our street lost people on 9/11. Even after 20 years and the fact that two of those families have moved away, I can still feel a stab of pain as I walk by. But I never want to forget not to turn my grief into hatred.